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14 December 2018

What packaging?

Our Group Creative Director Michael Duffy discusses how packaging has evolved and what we once knew as a purely functional outer casing is now considered part of the product itself.


The goal posts have been shifting for a while now.


A well-designed product that “does what it says on the tin” simply is not good enough anymore. While a high-quality product is certainly the backbone of creating a viable consumer experience, it’s much more than that. The product is the culmination (and hopefully high point) of a long line of essential touchpoints, from the initial website landing to browsing in-store at a point of sale to the order confirmation email and, perhaps most tangibly, the packaging of the product.


At this time of year, we as producers, retailers and packaging professionals (the ones who are responsible for this series of touchpoints) can and should think back to our innocent younger selves opening our Christmas pressies, enjoying the sparkle of the bows, the personalized hand-written note, the crisply folded, colourful wrapping paper – not to mention the joy of ripping all of it off! The suspense, and the ultimate satisfaction, of opening something that has been specially chosen, specially delivered and specially wrapped and presented FOR US can’t be underplayed.


Obviously, Kris Kringle was the original packaging hero… although the grown-ups in our lives may have had a little bit to do with it too.


Extend the analogy a bit further, and we are providing customers with a gift-like experience all year round. Instead of a special occasion once per year, in order to keep ahead of the competition, retailers need to trigger at least some measure of the care, the personalisation and the joy transferred from our families to us when we opened up those presents long ago.


These days, when we encounter an artfully, or thoughtfully designed package, it makes us anticipate the end result infinitely more. Thus, in distinguishing ourselves from a marketplace flooded with producers and marketing campaigns, the packaging we create is now becoming an integral part of the product itself, rather than an afterthought.


So, how can brands innovate to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to packaging?


One piece of advice is to stay on top of trends in social media. If video is coming to the fore in Facebook, and Instagram is moving into stories and serial posts that end up playing more like sagas, it’s important to consider how these will play out when customers interact with your brand. Teens are also increasingly giving Facebook the cold shoulder, opting for Snapchat and Instagram instead. (If you’re hoping to attract a very young demographic, note that only half of American teens now use Zuckerberg’s platform.)


If users aren’t posting about your packaging on any of these platforms, you may want to consider how you can make the prospect more attractive.


Steve Honour, of beverage company Diageo, “The design of packaging is more relevant now than it ever has been before. If someone told you ten years ago that you would see photos of packaging on social media you wouldn’t have believed them, but we now live in a world where people get just as excited about packaging as they do about the product inside.”


He argued that the relationship between social media and packaging is vital and must be considered during the design process, adding, “It is important to understand this and be conscious that we are now designing for the consumer. Social media gives people more access to share their opinions, both good and bad, so it is vital that we get it right and design packaging that is truly impactful for these platforms.”


This comes after cosmetics retailer Glossybox revealed that in the fragrance sector 32% of product-related posts on Instagram last year were related to product packaging. However, the truly incredible aspect of this was that product packaging drove nearly all of the subsequent interaction, ie the shares, the likes and the comments.


The packaging, therefore, needs to be exciting and inspiring enough to motivate the social media user to open, snap and post. So, now is a good time to consider these questions:


How would your packaging appear in an overhead shot? Is it colourful? Does it follow a certain genre of art or design? Does it affect other senses besides sight?


Make up company Hax has committed itself to vaulting up the Instagram leaderboard with its new range of specialised kits and how-to guides. The company’s “full-service solutions” and limited-edition collections have been inspired by stories, tips and beauty hacks discovered and featured on various social media platforms. So, the rise of Hax adds perspective in that entire brands are being born of social media, then working the systems that gave birth to them to elevate their profiles and grow their success.


The tendency to choose products based on their social media value has migrated from cosmetics and hotels to firmly land in the food and supermarkets sectors. At the time of publication, there were nearly 774,000 posts with the hashtag #supermarket on Instagram, with everything from vouchers and promotions to point of sale images and the odd teenager in the trolley post. This, however, is dwarfed by the 2.2m posts with the hashtag #packaging. While working with influencers comes with its own set of triumphs and tribulations, there’s no denying that improving a product’s packaging can inspire social media users to post their thoughts and make some noise about how loyal they are to your brand.


And watching your brand grow thanks to social media shares will almost certainly make you feel amazing – maybe even like a kid at Christmas.